EXCLUSIVE: Mark Jenkins on Albion's finances post COVID-19
Departing chief executive Mark Jenkins says Albion are one of a few fortunate clubs who have money to spend on transfers this summer.
But the retired CEO has warned the budget will be significantly lower than fans expect – with all clubs struggling to come to terms with the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.
After 18 hugely successful years, Jenkins opted to bid farewell to The Hawthorns earlier this week following the club’s promotion to the Premier League.
And in an exclusive interview with the Express & Star, he revealed just how crucial that promotion was to the club’s future, whilst also giving an insight into just how badly other clubs are struggling with the financial implications of COVID-19.
“When it comes to this transfer window there is no point in looking at what clubs have done in the past,” Jenkins said.
“Forget the figures Villa, Sheffield United and Norwich spent last season. We are now in a different world, a completely different world.
“And the values of players have totally changed.
“Still today, nobody has any idea how much players are worth or how much their value has deteriorated.
“Speaking to agents three or four weeks ago, they were saying nobody is ringing us.
“Clubs are just going to do Bosman free transfers and loans.
“Take a club like Crystal Palace for example – are they talking about buying players? I don’t know if they have got any spare money.
“Nobody is talking a big game at the moment bar the big six.
“What I think is going to happen, and fans won't like this, but they are going to have to be patient.
“A lot of Premier League clubs and I’d say every club that will be in the Championship next year will be more focused on getting rid of players than getting players in.
“But clubs in the Premier League aren’t stupid, they know it’s a fire sale.
"It’s a case of who blinks first and it’s a buyers market, not a seller's market. Deals could go right to the very end.
“And unfortunately, because there is a long time between the season starting (September 12) and the transfer window closing (October 21), clubs may have to play five, six or seven games without the players they want."
Jenkins believes the promotion Albion achieved a fortnight ago is the most important in the club’s history due to the financial impact of COVID 19.
“Albion getting promoted – and going up without any baggage – i.e. we haven’t got huge Premier League salaries already, means the club has got a small surplus to actually have a transfer budget.
“You are never going to say what you have and it’s not as much as we would like – but we have got something.
"But there will be teams in the Premier League who have committed to player contracts for the next two or three years.
"Then all of a sudden their commercial revenue has gone, they haven’t got any gate receipts. Their budget has gone but the costs are still there.
“There are opportunities for Albion in getting promoted this time.
"It was vital we got promoted, absolutely vital.”
Albion’s promotion last month was achieved in a campaign where they had a wage budget that sat in the top two of the division.
But Jenkins revealed that wage budget would have been slashed in half if they had failed to go up.
And he said all remaining Championship clubs will now be exploring ways to make cuts - with the 54-year-out believing it is still possible some could go out of business completely.
"We had a top two budget last season but if we hadn’t gone up we would have had to half our wage bill – had to," Jenkins continued.
"And we wouldn’t have been looking at buying players, we would have been looking to offload players.
"And I’d say every club that will be in the Championship next year will be more focused on getting rid of players than getting players in.
"I literally do not know how some championship clubs, without owner support, will survive.
"Every owner is going to have to dig deep. And you have got to remember these owners earn their money in the real world where I think there is going to be a recession anyway.
"So they are not going to have the resources. Football is going to be difficult, very, very difficult.
"I can’t see full stadiums again in 2020 maybe later in the season, but it is going to take a long, long time.
"You have got no people coming through the doors.
The Sky deal, in the Championship, is very poor, none of the clubs like it.
"And I think most clubs have pushed for the transfer window to be open as long as possible because they are going to try and sell players to keep themselves going.
"But for every club that is selling a player, you have got to have a club willing to buy.
"And I can’t see many clubs that are going to be able to buy, bar a few clubs at the top of the Premier League.
"The only transfers you are seeing at the minute are from the top six and that is because they have got huge resources and wealthy owners.
"But for the other clubs, it’s going to be challenging, very challenging to put it mildly."
Jenkins has enjoyed an outstanding record in what is a combined 18 years working at The Hawthorns.
Twelve of those seasons have been spent in the Premier League, while the six in the Championship have ended with four promotions or defeat in the play-offs.
But when people reflect on Albion's recent history, Jenkins believes it will be the latest promotion – and the one achieved by Gary Megson in 2002 – that will be looked upon as the most influential in shaping the club's future.
"During the pandemic – and I’m not even sure how many weeks it has gone on for now – but about six or seven weeks in, when it became obvious football was going to start again, I said to the board via a zoom call the next nine games are going to be the most important in the club’s history," Jenkins said.
"Now, you go back to 2002 when Gary (Megson) got the club promoted on a shoestring budget.
"That was phenomenal, he did incredibly well and set the club off on the journey of the past two decades.
"But with what is coming around the corner, if we hadn't gone up this season – it would have been incredibly difficult for the club going forward. Incredibly difficult.
"The financial challenges facing the remaining Championship clubs are frightening."
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